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Overnight News Digest
Welcome to the Overnight News Digest with a crew consisting of founder Magnifico, current leader Neon Vincent, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999. Alumni editors include (but not limited to) palantir, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, ek hornbeck, ScottyUrb, Interceptor7 and BentLiberal. The guest editor is annetteboardman.

Please feel free to share your articles and stories in the comments.

TOP STORY

  • Pilgrims celebrate birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem

    O Little Town of Bethlehem
    BBC News
    Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

    The day culminated with Christmas Eve Mass at the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where it is believed Jesus was born.

    In Bethlehem, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem voiced his support for a Palestinian state.

    Meanwhile in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI held the traditional Mass at St Peter's Basilica.

    The pontiff urged Christians to "find time and room for God in their fast-paced lives".

    Benedict prayed that Israelis and Palestinians be able to live their lives in peace. He also prayed for peace in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

    The Mass, usually celebrated at midnight, was brought forward by two hours to avoid tiring the 85-year-old pontiff unduly.

    US NEWS
    • 'Gangnam Style' And Other Best Memes Of 2012 Say Something About Us

      npr
       

      No big surprise here:

      "Gangnam Style" is the No. 1 meme of 2012, according to the memeologists at Know Your Meme.

      After all, Korean pop singer PSY's catchy tune and the video for it "spawned hundreds of parodies and copycat dance videos on YouTube and surpassed Justin Bieber's single 'Baby' as the most watched video on YouTube," as Know Your Meme writes.

      Friday, there was word that "Gangnam Style" is the first video to pass 1 billion on YouTube.

      But there was competition for Know Your Meme's No. 1 spot, of course. The rest of its Top 10 for 2012:

    • US gun lobby stands firm against regulation

      AlJazeera English
       

      The most powerful pro-gun lobby group in the United States has ruled out any support for greater regulation of firearms or ammunition magazines in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 people dead - including 20 children.

      Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said on Monday that planned legislation to outlaw military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines was "phony" and would not work.

      Barack Obama, the US president, has said he would support a new bill to ban assault rifles and put Vice-President Joe Biden in charge of a panel looking at a wide range of other measures, from school security to mental health.

    • Insight: How U.S. retailers are building up their online muscle

      Reuters
       

      The brave new world for U.S. retailers can be found in small cities like Martinsburg, West Virginia.

      That's where department store chain Macy's Inc recently opened a facility the size of 43 football fields - big enough to stock 1 million pairs of shoes - just to fulfill orders made online.

      The $150 million building, its third one dedicated primarily to supporting macys.com, has already been handling 60,000 orders on a busy day this holiday season. Macy's expects that figure to triple in two years.

      "The customer is increasingly voting that she wants to shop both ways," said RB Harrison, Macy's executive vice president in charge of integrating e-commerce and store operations.

      From Macy's to Home Depot Inc and Best Buy Co Inc, retail executives are racing to speed up order delivery and improve inventory management, which if done well, can help profit margins.

    • Fed Flummoxed by Mortgage Yield Gap Refusing to Shrink: Economy

      Bloomberg
       

      Record-low mortgage rates aren’t cheap enough for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke as he tries to spur economic growth and create jobs.

      Policy makers are disappointed that lower yields on mortgage-backed securities haven’t led to more savings on home loans after the Fed expanded its balance sheet to an all-time high of almost $3 trillion through bond purchases. Bernanke this month called the trend “unfortunate,” and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York held a workshop to examine the issue.

      between the bond yields and home-loan rates is blunting the economic benefits of the Fed’s record accommodation, New York Fed President William C. Dudley said in a speech in New York this month. Among the reasons for the spread: banks are reluctant to take on the expensive fixed costs of new staff to process the paperwork and tougher capital requirements are making it less attractive to service loans.

    • Pulling Together, Newtown Celebrates Holiday 'As Best We Can'

      npr

      The days leading up to Christmas are typically bustling in Newtown, Conn. But given the depth of grief in this community since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, preparations for the holiday began very late.

      Local shopkeepers say Saturday was the first day many people came out for holiday shopping since the tragedy. Tamara Doherty, owner of the Wishing Well — a shop filled with local crafts, Christmas ornaments, pottery and potpourri — says her business is finally picking up.

      She's offering shoppers free cookies in the shape of angels, which have become a symbol of the Newtown tragedy. All the people who wander in seem warm and open.

    WORLD NEWS

  • Syria envoy meets Assad as opposition frustration grows

    Reuters
     

    Special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi discussed solving the country's conflict with President Bashar al-Assad on Monday, but the opposition expressed deepening frustration with the mission following what it called the latest massacre of civilians.

    Underlining how rebels are taking the battle close to Assad's doorstep, the U.N. and Arab League envoy had to drive to Damascus from Lebanon on the eve of the meeting as fighting around the international airport made it impossible to fly in.

    Brahimi said his talks with Assad had dealt with possible solutions to a crisis that has killed more than 44,000 people, according to activists.

  • Egypt reviews ballot on contentious constitution

    Reuters
     

    Egyptian judges were investigating opposition accusations of voting fraud on Monday before declaring the result of a referendum set to show that a contentious new constitution has been approved.

    President Mohamed Mursi sees the basic law, drawn up mostly by his Islamist allies, as a vital step in Egypt's transition to democracy almost two years after the fall of military-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak.

    Unofficial tallies from the Muslim Brotherhood - which catapulted Mursi into the presidency this year - indicated that 64 percent had approved the charter, although an official result was not expected until at least Tuesday. An opposition tally had a similar result.

  • India gang rape protests: Manmohan Singh appeals for calm

    The Guardian
     

    The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, called for calm on Monday in a televised public address a day after police used baton charges, water cannons and teargas to disperse crowds of demonstrators calling for stronger measures to combat the wave of sexual violence towards women in the country.

    The brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old in the capital, Delhi, has provoked widespread anger, focused largely on the police, politicians and senior officials, and has dominated news bulletins since the attack eight days ago.

    The victim, a physiotherapy student who was returning home with a friend from a film in the south of the capital, is still in a critical condition. Six men have been arrested and face life imprisonment if convicted of any role in the assault, which took place over an hour on a bus travelling on main roads in the capital.

    Singh, 80, admitted that there was "genuine and justified anger and anguish" but called on "all concerned citizens to maintain peace and calm".

Spiegel Online International
 

Poland is addicted to coal. That is the message the country has been sending both domestically and internationally as Warsaw prepares to host the global climate summit next year. In Europe, the Poles are isolated in their fight for looser emissions reduction goals and against fixes to the EU's cap-and-trade system.

It is not everyday that a small legal practice receives a visit from a domestic security agency. So Tomasz Wlodarski, the director of Environmental Law Service Poland, said he was surprised when Poland's equivalent of the FBI paid him a visit in the fall. Even stranger, the officers asked for nothing that hadn't been previously published about the organization.

BBC News
 

South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas in hospital, a government statement has said.

Mr Mandela, 94, was admitted to hospital two weeks ago and has been treated for a lung infection and gallstones.

There is growing concern in South Africa about his health.

Mr Mandela was jailed for 27 years for leading the struggle against white-minority rule.

He is regarded by most South Africans as the father of the nation, having inspired them to fight for democracy.

Public anxiety
"Former President Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas Day in hospital, his doctors have confirmed," a government statement said.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg reports that with every passing day there is growing public anxiety about Mr Mandela's health.

There was hope that he would be allowed to spend Christmas at home, but his doctors are still not comfortable about discharging him, she says.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND HEALTH

  • FAT INFLUENCES DECISIONS TAKEN BY BRAIN CELLS FOR PRODUCTION AND SURVIVAL
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have identified two molecules that play an important role in the survival and production of nerve cells in the brain, including nerve cells that produce dopamine. The discovery, which is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, may be significant in the long term for the treatment of several diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.
The same scientists have previously shown that receptors known as “liver X receptors” or LXR, are necessary for the production of different types of nerve cells, or neurons, in the developing ventral midbrain. One these types, the midbrain dopamine-producing neurons play an important role in a number of diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Read more at http://scienceblog.com/...

  • EXCESSIVE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS LINKED TO AUTISTIC-LIKE BEHAVIORS
     
Autistic-like behaviors can be partially remedied by normalizing excessive levels of protein synthesis in the brain, a team of researchers has found in a study of laboratory mice. The findings, which appear in the latest issue of Nature, provide a pathway to the creation of pharmaceuticals aimed at treating autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that are associated with diminished social interaction skills, impaired communication ability, and repetitive behaviors.

“The creation of a drug to address ASD will be difficult, but these findings offer a potential route to get there,” said Eric Klann, a professor at NYU’s Center for Neural Science and the study’s senior author. “We have not only confirmed a common link for several such disorders, but also have raised the exciting possibility that the behavioral afflictions of those individuals with ASD can be addressed.”

Read more at http://scienceblog.com/...

  • 1 IN 3 KIDS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES GETS BULLIED
     
Nearly a third of children diagnosed with food allergies who participated in a recent study are bullied, according to researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Almost eight percent of children in the U.S. are allergic to foods such as peanuts, tree-nuts, milk, eggs, and shellfish.

Nearly half of parents surveyed (47.9 percent) were not aware of the bullying—although both the bullied children and their parents reported experiencing higher stress levels and lower quality of life. The study, titled, “Child and Parental Reports of Bullying in a Consecutive Sample of Children with Food Allergy,” appears in the online issue of Pediatrics on December 24. The study was led by Eyal Shemesh, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Shemesh and his team surveyed 251 pairs of parents and children. The patient and parent pairs were consecutively recruited during allergy clinic visits to independently answer questionnaires. Bullying due to food allergy or for any cause, quality of life, and distress in both the child and parent were evaluated using validated questionnaires.

Read more at http://scienceblog.com/...

New York Times
 

West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists had thought over the last half century, new research suggests, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea levels.

A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience reports that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

BBC News

 

Wildlife campaigners are at odds over a new attempt to ban the global trade in polar bear parts.

Some activists say the market for rugs and ornaments made from the bears is driving them to extinction,

But others argue that the most pressing problem for the species is climate change and the disappearance of polar ice.

The issue will be decided at a UN wildlife conservation meeting in Thailand in March 2013.

The Humane Society International/UK says that polar bears have been brought to a tipping point by climate change but that increased hunting in recent years is pushing the species "beyond the brink."

"The drivers for the increase in recent years in the trade in polar bear parts are the extremely worrying and rapidly increasing prices being paid on international markets for polar bear parts," said Mark Jones, executive director of the Humane Society International/UK

He points to the fact that in the five years up to 2012 there has been a 375% increase in the number of polar bear skins offered at auction, some selling for as much as $12,000 (£7.400).

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